Hospital Digs Graves of Women & Children

No doctors and no care for Pregnant tribal women and their children in Barwani, M.P.

Dhuna Bai, a tribal woman from Barwani district, Madhya Pradesh is very angry. Last December, gross negligence by medical authorities in the district hospital, a government appointed 24 hrs delivery and mother & child care centre, resulted in the death of her 22year old daughter-in-law Byapari Bai. It was the 25th maternal death in the hospital in the last seven months.

Barwani town, in western U.P., known as the Paris of Nimar for its scenic and architectural beauty, is the district headquarters of the Barwani district. In the light of recent events, it is surprising to see that its wikipedia entry volunteers that it is a place renowned for its healthcare and that the district hospital is an institution of the most esteemed variety, certainly not the kind responsible for the deaths of the women and 21 stillborns.

The unfortunate tale of Byapari Bai, as told by Dhuna Bai, reveals the real picture. The pregnant woman was carried in a cloth bag for over ten kilometres before the ambulance managed to pick her up. As the vehicle arrived at the hospital none of the doctors and staff who were qualified and could help were available. Byapari was then asked to shift to a hospital in Indore more than 150 kms away. She failed to make the journey.

For Dhuna Bai, nothing has changed with time and the country’s so-called progress has left women like her behind. Earlier they would fail to get medical care and assistance because they lived far-away from towns in inaccessible forests. Years later, the forests have receded, towns have sprung but they still have to travel four gruelling hours to reach the nearest hospital. Even then, there is no guarantee of respite.

With the help of a local organization, the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sanghatan, Dhuna protested against this systemic neglect with 3000 other marginalized women.  Instead of sympathizing with the protestors, the state cracked down on the demonstrations and arrested some of the protestors under false charges. ’25 paisa worth of change’ is how Dhuna describes the fallout of the protest.

Byapari Bai remains yet another unrequited statistic. A 2007 UNICEF study reports that 60% of maternal and neo-natal deaths in India were the mothers and children of tribals and dalits.

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